Category Archives: The Orange Women’s Association

The Blacker and Shillington Families of Portadown Exhibition

The Blacker and Shillington Families of Portadown Exhibition

Portadown Heritage Tours are launching a new exhibition documenting the famous Blacker and Shillington Families of Portadown.

The Blacker family have their roots firmly engraved into the heritage and development of Portadown as a town.  The Family is from Viking decent and the first of the Blacker Family settled in Portadown in 1660.  It was from that point onwards that the family developed an influential historic link with Seagoe Parish Church, the development of the town and the Orange Institution.

Carrickblacker House was the Blacker’s Family home.

We were able to complete a large part of the exhibition on the Blacker family, thanks to the research by local historian James Kane.  The Blacker Family have a detailed history and comprising it down for the benefit of the exhibition was quite a task.  James Kane published a book on the family in 1995 titled “For God and the King” – The Story of the Blackers of Carrickblacker.  The book provided us with a detailed overview of the timeline and family tree of the Blacker Family.

Lt Col Stewart Ward William Blacker

Shillington Family

The Shillington Family were important in the development of Portadown through the family business T A Shillington & Son.  During the First World War, the family were influential in the war effort.  Major David Graham Shillington led the way along with his son Tom and nephew Geoffrey.  His nephew, Geoffrey St George Shillington Cather, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery on the Western Front.  The Family was also influential in the Orange Institution in Portadown, particularly the women.

Louisa Shillington

Women’s influence

For the first time the development of the Women’s Orange Institution in Portadown will be documented through this exhibition.  The exhibition will document the heritage of both families and how they came together in the First World War.

Launch Night

The ‘Shillington and Blacker Families of Portadown’ exhibition will launch in Edenderry Orange Hall on Wednesday 26th June at 7:30pm.  Everyone is welcome to come along and light refreshments will be served.  The exhibition will be going to other venues in the next few months before it becomes a permanent feature in Carleton Street Orange Hall and Heritage Centre.

The Launch night is kindly being facilitated by Jessie Collen Memorial WLOL 101.  The Collen family have close links with the Shillington family and the exhibition explores this link in great detail.

If any Lodges or groups would like to facilitate the exhibition in their halls, then please feel free to get in touch with our office.

Funding

This exhibition has been made possible through funding received by Portadown Heritage Tours from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

Portadown Heritage Tours is also supported by Peace IV funding.

 

1914: The possibility of a UVF hospital at Carleton Street Orange Hall

1914: The possibility of a UVF hospital at Carleton Street Orange Hall

 Ulster Women’s Unionist Council

The council was established on 23rd January 1911.  It very quickly developed into a strong, active and democratic body that held the women of Ulster together with one common objective-the resistance to Home Rule for Ireland.  Within just one year of its establishment, the UWUC was notably the largest female political  group in Ireland.  At its height membership was in the region of 115,000-200,000.

Civil War In Ireland

Many women were anxious to play their part in the event of Civil War in Ireland, particularly the Ulster Women’s Unionist Council who proposed, as early as the beginning of 1912, that an Ambulance Society be set up and associated with their organisation.  However, they also became the driving force behind the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Medical and Nursing Corps which was formally in place by the end of 1913.  They believed that each Company of the UVF should have a voluntary female nursing section that could be called upon in the event of Civil War breaking out.  Up until that time various affiliated associations of the UWUC were already offering First Aid and nursing classes in their areas.

Establishing a Nursing Service

The Executive Committee of the Ulster Women’s council then took the initiative in early October 1913, to write to the Medical Board of the Ulster Volunteer Force to ask them to give serious consideration to the idea of a nursing service.  They made plain the urgency of the situation and included how the scheme should be based on the outline of the Voluntary Aid Detachment scheme which operated in Britain under the Red Cross.  They pointed out that volunteers should be trained in First Aid and Home Nursing using material from either the Red Cross or St John’s Ambulance Association.  The medical Board accepted the idea of a nursing service and by mid December 1913 the training scheme was well underway in many areas of the province.

Portadown Women’s Unionist Association

The members of Portadown Women’s Unionist Association had many links with the local Women’s Loyal Orange Institution.  The association in Portadown was a strong and well organised one.  They met in Carleton Street Orange hall.  In August 1913 they held a large meeting in a field in Edgarstown, which was owned by Miss Kate Carleton, to rally against Home Rule.  They held a number of these meetings during the years of the Home Rule Crisis.

The Blacker’s and The Unionist Associations

The President of the Portadown Women’s Unionist Association in 1914 was Mrs Blacker of Carrickblacker. The wife of Major Stewart Ward William Blacker.  During the years of the Home Rule Crisis, Major Blacker took a keen interest in the formation of the Unionist Clubs and in January 1912 he was appointed vice-president of the local men’s Unionist Association in Portadown.  Major Blacker was then appointed commanding officer of the 4th Portadown Battalion Ulster Volunteer Force.

Mrs Blacker was described by Mrs Dougan (the Vice President and wife of Bro. Dr George Dougan) as:

“A worthy representative of the Blacker family, the Blacker’s in days gone by have rendered invaluable service to the Unionist Cause”

The Secretary was Mrs C Johnston, her husband was the Chairman of the men’s Unionist Association in Portadown.  The treasurer was Louisa Shillington, the wife of David Graham Shillington and a respected Orangewoman.  David Graham Shillington was an officer of the 4th Portadown Battalion Ulster Volunteer Force and also a respected Orangeman.

UVF Hospital at Carleton Street Orange Hall

At the annual meeting of the Portadown Women’s Unionist Association in Carleton Street Orange Hall, in April 1914, the plans were finalised for a volunteer hospital in the Orange Hall.  In the event of an outbreak of civil war in Ireland.

The Orangemen of Portadown had kindly placed the whole building at the disposal of the women should a civil war break out.  It would have been a base hospital.  The Parochial Hall had also been offered as an auxiliary if it was required.  The staff at the hospital would have been as follows:

  • Joint Commandants- Mrs Robb and Mrs Hobson
  • Superintendant Nurse- Miss Marion Stanley
  • Mr WM Fulton- Treasurer
  • Mr Megarry- Quarter Master
  • Mr Robert Anderson – Transport Officer
  • Four trained nurses
  • Forty women trained in first aid nursing

The people of the town and district were generous in their promises to give or lend articles for the hospital and the tradespeople of the town also came forward to offer their services.

The cleaning and cooking was also not over looked.  In the President’s report of the meeting it states that:

“I am glad to be able to tell you that we are extremely well off in both these respects”.

Mrs Davidson was tasked to oversee the cleaning of the hospital along with a large group of willing helpers.  Mrs Dawson, Mrs Wedgewood, Mrs R Lutton and Mrs W Fulton would be responsible for the cooking.

The women had carefully refrained from asking for any money for the hospital.  Although the executive committee of the association had ear-marked £10 of the general fund to be devoted to the use of the hospital if it was required.  It was noted within the Presidents report that:

“I know that should the need really arise, you would all help as much as lay in your power”.

Mrs Blacker stated in her President report that:

“We all pray earnestly that the need for this hospital may never arise, still we must have our preparations made, and our organisation more or less complete, so that in the event of an outbreak we would not be caught napping”.

The Secretary, Mrs C Johnston, read a report on the work done by the Association during the year, which contained the following:

“When we met at our annual general meeting last year, we all fondly hoped that Home Rule would have been dead by this time.  I believe it is dying, but it is not prepared to die, and we need to do everything in our power now to make it impossible for it ever to raise its head again in Ulster”

Canvassing and Newspaper Distribution

Women of the Portadown association often traveled to Britain to canvas support and teach the true facts of the situation in Ireland.  One noted visit in the report of the meeting mentions a, Mrs Weir, who had given a satisfactory account of her canvassing experience in Scotland.

The Association in Portadown, on average posted over one hundred papers each week to Britain.  The importance of this task was emphasised as it resulted in large subscriptions from some of the people to whom the papers were sent.  This task counteracted government propaganda in Britain.

Mrs Johnston worked tirelessly to promote the Unionist cause both as Secretary and as head of the Volunteers Post Office.  Mrs Louisa Shillington, as treasurer, and all the other officers of the Association gave so much of their time and effort in the interests of the Unionist cause.

Mrs Dougan paid tribute to the Ulster Volunteer force during the Association’s meeting stating:

“On the night of the 19th and 20th March when we all believed that wholesale massacre was at hand, and also on Friday night last, every man turned out.  Not one sent an apology or made an appeal to get off.  We hope and trust that they might never have to be mobilised again in similar circumstances, but if they do, they would prove themselves worthy sons of worthy forefathers, and that every man among them would do his duty’.

Outbreak of War

At the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, the Home Rule crisis in Ireland and the threat of Civil War was now overtaken by a much greater force.  The Ulster Volunteer Force and the Irish Volunteers set aside their differences and joined the ranks of Kitchener’s new army.

The outbreak of war propelled the Ulster Women’s Unionist Council into a new cause and for the remainder of the war their active opposition to Home Rule was put aside; the focus was now on how they could actively help on the ‘home front’.

In the early period of the war, the UWUC were actively pursuing various avenues whereby the skills of their newly trained Ulster Volunteer nurses could be utilised immediately and like many other aid organisations, offered their services to the British War Office which were declined.  Not to be deterred an offer was made directly to the French Authorities which was gladly accepted and by 22nd September 1914, arrangments were already in place for the first group of the Ulster Volunteer nurses to proceed to France.

Carleton Street Orange Hall

The Orange Hall became a recruitment office.  On 15th September 1914, 300 men were selected from the 4th Portadown Battalion Ulster Volunteer Force.  The men underwent medical examination and were enlisted into the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Carleton Street Orange Hall

 

This is a very small part of a much bigger story to be told through our “Loyalty is Not for Barter’ Exhibition launching September 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Collen Women and their strong influence on Orangeism

The Collen Women and their strong influence on Orangeism

The Collen family have their roots firmly in the building, construction and development of Portadown.

The Collen family have been involved in the building trade since 1810.  Collen Brothers opened their doors for business in 1867 in Carleton Street, Portadown. John Collen took the lead in establishing the new family company along with his brothers Richard, Joseph and David.  Collen brothers managed to secure a wide variety of contracts not only in Portadown but also throughout Ulster.

The Collen Brothers built Carleton Street Orange Hall.  The outside facade of the hall holds a strong resemblance to the Blacker family residence that was Carrickblacker House.  The firm became the main contractor for public works in the town.  The company expanded well beyond its native region, extending its reach to Dublin in the early 1870’s.

 

Carrickblacker House

Carleton Street Orange Hall

 

Strong Unionist Links

John Collen acquired a local residence at Killycomain House which became the family home. He was an important figure in the town and a prominent Methodist. He was appointed Justice of the Peace for Portadown and emerged as a leading member of the local Unionist Party. He was a member of the General Committee of the North Armagh Unionist Association during the first decade of the twentieth century.

He was selected to represent Portadown Urban District Council as a member of Armagh County Council.  He remained a member of the Council for over two decades until his retirement due to ill health in 1920.  John Collen was also appointed as Deputy Lieutenant for the County in December 1906, retaining the post until his death in 1921.  He also served as high sheriff of Armagh in 1911, attending the coronation of King George V.

The Collen woman and Orangeism in Portadown

Perhaps it was the influence of their father’s strong unionist views, but it was two of John Collen’s Daughters that paved the way for the Women’s Loyal Orange Institution in Portadown.  Louisa and Jessie Collen were prominent Orangewomen of Portadown.  The Association of Loyal Orange Women of Ireland, Armagh No.3 District, Portadown was formed on 21st May 1923.  There were three District Lodges functioning at this time.

The Officers were:

  • District Mistress Sister Mrs. McDonald
  • Deputy District Mistress Sister Jessie Collen
  • District Chaplain Sister Miss McDonald
  • District Secretary Sister Mrs J Logan
  • District Treasurer Sister Miss Dougan

Louisa Shillington (nee Collen)

Louisa Collen married David Graham Shillington in 1895.  The Shillington family were also very important in the development of Portadown.  David Graham Shillington was a proud Unionist, Methodist and Military man.  He served as District Master of Portadown LOL No.1 from 1926 until 1944.

Louisa was influential in the development of Women’s Orangeism and Unionism in Portadown.  Sister Shillington held office in WLOL 62, a lodge based in Carleton Street Orange Hall and still going strong to this day.  The Lodge was the first to be formed in Portadown on 21st May 1921.  Louisa was also President of the Women’s Unionist Association Portadown Branch.

Louisa Shillington (Nee Collen)
Image courtesy of Shillington Family records

Jessie Collen

Jessie Collen was the youngest daughter of John and Mary Collen.  Sister Collen was the first Worshipful Mistress of WLOL 101, based at Edenderry Orange Hall in the town.  According to newspaper records it was her Sister Louisa Shillington that officially opened Edenderry Orange Hall.  The Lodge was formed on 8th May 1923.  Sister Collen was also the first Deputy District Mistress of Armagh No.3 District, Portadown.

Records show that Jessie was influential in representing Women’s Orangeism at many different parades and events.  One notable event that Sister Collen attended was the visit of their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of York to Northern Ireland in 1924 along with Sisters Mrs McDonald and Miss Shaw.  There is no mention of representation from the men of Portadown District LOL No.1.  But both organisations of the Orange Institution of Portadown worked very closely together, so it is thought that the Sisters in attendance were a representation of the Portadown Orange Institution as a whole.

Working Together

Through obvious family links a strong working relationship was developed between both the men’s orange institution and the women’s orange institution in Portadown. The District Officers of the Women’s Association would have paraded at the front along with the District Officers of Portadown District LOL No.1.  According to Newspaper records they shared out attendances at events and often would have had joint church services and parades.  The effects of this strong relationship built in the 1920’s is still present today.

A lasting Memorial to Jessie Collen

Jessie Collen died on New Year’s Eve in 1931.  She had been living at 5 Deramore Park , Belfast located in the Malone area in the South of the city.  But she passed away at the residence of her eldest brother, Thomas John Collen esquire, at 20 Bethia Road Bournemouth, England.  It is thought that she was only in her late fifties when she died.

In 1937, six years after Sister Collen’s death, Edenderry Women’s LOL 101 was officially renamed ‘The Jessie Collen Memorial Women’s LOL 101’ as a lasting tribute to the memory of its first Worshipful Mistress.  Under the auspices of the lodge, a small function took place in Edenderry Orange Hall on 14th April 1937 to mark the occasion.  There were a number of visitor’s present including D.M. Bro Major David Graham Shillington, Sister Louisa Shillington (nee Collen) D.M of WLOL 62 and Br R.J Magowan W.M of Edenderry Temperance and Benefit LOL No.322.

Jessie Collen is buried in the Collen family plot at Seagoe Cemetery.

Jessie Collen Memorial WLOL 101

 

Sources:

Collen 200 years of Building and Civil Engineering in Ireland, John Walsh

Portadown Times articles 1923-1937

Portadown District LOL No.1 2005 County Demonstration booklet

NAI, Census of Ireland 1901 and 1911, Household return for John Collen

 

 

Significance of the Saunderson’s and the Orange Institution

Significance of the Saunderson’s and the Orange Institution

Helena de Moleyns was the daughter of Thomas Townsend Aremberg de Moleyns, 3rd Baron Ventry, and married Colonel Edward Saunderson on 22nd June 1865.  They had four sons and one daughter.

Helena Emily de Moleyns who was born in 1842, was a significant figure within the The Orange Women’s Association.

In 1887, following the first Home Rule Crisis, an association of Loyal Orangewomen was established in Ireland by the Hon Helena de Moleyns.

The association was formed when a number of women with strong unionist views formed themselves into a body to work together for the promotion of Protestantism and the defence of the Union.

The Association was authorised by the Grand Lodge of Ireland in December 1887 and it flourished for a short time but eventually ceased to function. The Orange Women’s Association was revived in 1911.

Helena Emily Saunderson (nee de Moleyns) died on 17th January 1926.

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Colonel Edward Saunderson : Prominent Irish Unionist Politician

Saunderson was born at Castle Saunderson in County Cavan and inherited his father’s Cavan estates following his death in 1857.  He led the Irish Unionist Party between 1891 and 1906.  Saunderson was first elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom as the Palmerstonian Liberal member for Cavan in 1865.  In 1868, he became a Conservative.

Saunderson lost his seat to the Home Rule League Candidates at the 1874 general election.  In 1885 he stood again for the Parliament and was elected as a Conservative for the North Armagh Constituency.

By this time, he had become a prominent figure in the Orange Order and in the Unionist Political Movement.  In March 1893, Saunderson was one of the signatories of the manifesto of the Ulster Defence Union, launched to organise  resistance to the Second Home Rule Bill of 1893.  He also served as Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant for Cavan, and was High Sheriff of Cavan in 1859. Saunderson entered the Cavan militia (4th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers) in 1862, and was made a major in 1875.  He became a Colonel in 1886 and was in command of the battalion from 1891 to 1893. Brother Saunderson served as the County Grand Master of Belfast from 1901 to 1903.

Saunderson became known for his speeches in the House of Commons.

“No man who comes to Belfast will laugh at the Ulster Loyalists. When all is said and done, whether or not the House of Lords rejects this Bill, I say in the name of my people I reject it. You may occupy the House of Commons for years to come with academic debates about the merits of this Home Rule Bill but I say in their name I reject it …. Home Rule may pass this House but it will never pass the bridge at Portadown”.

He died of pneumonia in 1906 and a statue, subscribed for by the public, was unveiled at Portadown in 1910